October 14, 2016
Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Whatever.
by Simon Reichley
Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, “for having created new forms of poetic expression within the great American song tradition.” This has come as a shock to the literary establishment, some of whom may or may not be forced to eat unsavory objects on account of the unlikely decision.
Say what you will about the man and his music, it’s kind of a baffling decision, and there are any number of searing hot takes to be had. On the one hand, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” is awesome, but honestly the Leon Russell version is better. On the other hand, yes yes yes, he is probably some kind of poet or something. If you would listen—like really listen—to “Bringing it all Back Home,” you would know what I’m talking about. And then again, yeah, maybe it is a category error to think about his output as literature, even though, you know, troubadours and Dario Fo (RIP). But really, who are you to argue with Joyce Carol Oates? Or the President of the Goddamn United States?
There will be plenty of encomiums and rebuttals in the days to come, so we will strictly avoid both. Bob Dylan is an artist, and it is generally agreed upon that some of his art is very good. At least part of his art was made up of words, and therefore maybe literature. That much is certain. Everything else is conjecture.
And now, a song:
Simon Reichley is the Director of Operations and Rights Manager at Melville House.